Editor's note: Zhu Zheng is an assistant professor focusing on constitutional law and politics at China University of Political Science and Law. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
On November 16 and 17, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a conference calling to stay on the path of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics, promote the modernization of China's governance system and capacity along the path of the rule of law.
According to reports, President Xi proposed some ways of strengthening the rule of law, and stressed the importance of upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), comprehensively implementing the rule of law and building China into a socialist country under the rule of law.
He said people's interests should be prioritized when advancing the rule of law, and praised the country's efforts in building a socialist legal system since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012.
This conference is the first locus where Xi Jinping thought on the rule of law was mentioned, and the thought will be one of the pivotal pillars of the ideological complex that supports the country in the years to come. As a result, the conference should be understood in a wider perspective, several points of which are worth investigating.
First of all, the conference attached a great importance to the Party's leadership. It said the CPC's leadership should be enhanced because of the complex situation home and abroad facing China. According to President Xi, the CPC has been serious about rule of law building, as since the 18th CPC Congress, the "law-based governance" was set as an aim, and according to the vision laid out by the Law-based Governance Committee established at the 19th CPC Congress, rule of law for the country, governance and society will be basically put in place by 2035.
This on the one hand calls to unswervingly uphold the leadership of the Party and a full integration of state and Party organizations, entrenching the Party's leadership on political power and ideology more deeply than before. On the other hand, it underlines the need to further put in place a sound system of intro-Party rules and regulations which bridges gaps between Party rules and national laws so that Party's decisions and polices will be more efficiently enforced.
Secondly, the conference highlighted the overarching status of the Constitution and suggested that future reforms will be carried out strictly in accordance with the Constitution. Over the past few decades, not all salutary reforms were unrolled within the constitutional framework and reformative measures sometimes put in place running odds with constitutional parameters.
For example, the practice of allowing an individual farmer household to own land fell foul of the 1978 Constitution, which prohibited private transaction of parcels of land. But the 1982 Constitution at its earliest stage included some excessively restrictive provisions, China's economic progress was de facto made in an unconstitutional way.
This reform logic is not true anymore. After four decades of reform and especially after the 18th CPC Congress, China's outlook and vision for reform has been greatly changed. The Constitution is no longer a document merely making records of the reform but a legal instrument blowing the trumpet for the reform. The reform and opening-up have had much synergy with the Constitution and from now on all reforms should be brought forward along the constitutional trajectory.
Finally, the conference vowed to build up a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics. President Xi underscored more efforts to be made to advance legislation in key areas including national security, scientific and technological innovation, public health, bio-safety and ecological civilization. In doing so, as he explained, the legal system would be able to "respond to major challenges, withstand major risks, overcome major obstacles and address major conflicts."
President Xi mapped out a vision that the country should ultimately pursue coordinated progress in law-based governance, law-based exercise of state power, and law-based government administration, and promote the integrated development of rule of law for the country, the government and the society.
The Party's leadership, constitution, and a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics are the three major pillars of Xi Jinping thought on rule of law. It signifies the Party's resolution to further codify and institutionalize its rule and ideology, with the aim of protecting the people's rights and interests in the rule of law manner.
Overall, Xi Jinping thought on the rule of law stresses the importance of law-based governance; the conference laid down a foundation for sweeping changes in the fields of law and governance, and it is for this reason the idea should be taken seriously.
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